Milestones sign of greatness: Maroons

Looming milestones have made Queensland the butt of yet more Dad’s Army jokes.

But Maroons coach Mal Meninga has backed his “team of greats” to get the last laugh by piling on the State of Origin records for plenty more years to come.

NSW media have delighted in lampooning Queensland ahead of Wednesday night’s Origin opener in Sydney.

No one has been safe – Queensland great Meninga was mocked up as a whining baby, complete with nappy, after asking for pre-match talks with the referees.

But the team’s veteran status has prompted the most sniggers from cynics.

Queensland playmaker Johnathan Thurston, 32, will line up in a record 31st consecutive Origin on Wednesday night.

The only player to have featured in every game in Queensland’s eight- straight series streak snapped last year, Thurston has not missed an Origin since his debut in the 2005 opener.

And captain Cameron Smith – 32 in June – will equal Allan Langer as the second most capped player in Origin history with 34 games.

Maligned for picking and sticking since his triumphant arrival as coach 10 years ago, Meninga instead put his players’ longevity down to greatness.

“I think it is a mark of this footy team,” he said of Smith’s milestone.

“We have been lucky to get some of the greatest players ever in history in one team.

“Being resilient with no injuries and being able to keep playing at this level is a mark of greatness.”

And he did not see the Origin milestones ending any time soon.

“We’ve been fortunate to have this group of players (with) not a lot injuries to have that continuity,” Meninga said.

“Let’s hope they can continue for a few more years and break more records, that would be fantastic.”

Meninga also dipped his hat to Thurston.

“He’s up there in the top echelon of players,” he said.

“You don’t want to compare players … but he is up there as one of the greatest players in the game.

“He is an extraordinary player, so competitive and resilient, a role model for kids and a nice bloke.”

Asked how he had handled the personal attacks by the media, Meninga said: “It is water off a duck’s back.

“People like to make it personal with me but I am about the players and the results that they get.

“It doesn’t worry me. I don’t want any accolades – it’s about the players.”

Meanwhile, Meninga still expected more greatness despite the entire Queensland side only training together for the first time at ANZ Stadium on match eve.

After losing Daly Cherry-Evans (shoulder), Meninga was sweating on Greg Inglis (tonsillitis), Justin Hodges (foot) and Billy Slater (shoulder) during a tumultuous Gold Coast camp.

But Meninga was all smiles on Tuesday, backing all of his fitness concerns – including Inglis who spent three nights in hospital – to be “100 per cent” on Wednesday night.

“We are expecting them to be at their best,” he said.

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